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Iowa City School Board endorses new funding plan

BY LAUREN COFFEY | NOVEMBER 07, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Iowa City School Board has made a decision, voting Tuesday night on a new way to allocate school-infrastructure local-option funds.

The six members of the seven-member board who were in attendance voted unanimously to bring the new plan to voters.

The plan to allocate funds will now be up to School District voters on Feb. 5, 2013.

The new proposal, called the SAVE plan, will take the local-option funds and place them in the state’s hands, rather than locally as they are now. The funds will then be allocated to each district, based on the number of students in each district. Each school district will receive $870 per pupil, giving the local district $10.6 million in fiscal 2013.

“It provides a guarantee for the School District’s ability to dictate funds,” Superintendent Steve Murley said.

The School District will also be able to borrow up to $100 million until 2029.

Currently, the district uses a pay-as-you go plan, in which school officials only can spend sales-tax money that is allocated and in the bank.

“We as an administrative team make the recommendation for the revenue purpose statement,” Murley said. “With our economy, the plan can do more, certainly, than the pay-as-you go system, if you look at the cost of borrowing.”

The current pay-as-you- go plan will expire in the year 2017, in which the district will not have local control over the funds. The SAVE plan will last until 2029.

The School Board has wrestled over the past few months with the idea to set aside funds for building a new high school or to repair elementary schools, with much input from the community.

“I realize we have until 2017 [to pass the revenue purpose statement],” community member Julie Van Dyke said. “But I remember in the summer seeing photographs of Twain [Elementary] and see the thermostats in the 90 [degrees because of a lack of air conditioning]. This will help schools with desperate needs.”

Right now, the School Board has $20 million set aside for elementary schools and $32 million for a new high school. With the new SAVE plan, the district would be able to use future funds in order to pay for both projects.

The board was met with mixed concerns from the community on Tuesday night when it passed the SAVE plan.

“People have voiced concerns that it is very broad, and it is,” Murley said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen from now until 2029. We want future boards to have as much flexibility as possible.”

If the community decides to vote against the new plan, the School Board will have to wait six months before bringing it up to the public.

The board members have high hopes for the new plan, and they hope the public will believe in the plan as well.

“I think it’s a great way for us to accomplish our needs,” School Board President Marla Swesey said. “It would allow us to make changes quicker than what we could do with the pay-as-you-go plan. I sure hope [that the community votes]. I think they’d be foolish not to.”


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